by Kevin Raber
The Think Tank Airport Navigator
I am a camera bag addict. I have more camera bags than anyone should have. It comes as no surprise though that I am not alone. My photographer friends and those that I meet in my travels seem to suffer from this affliction as well. Since I started my career in photography way back in the seventies I have been searching for the perfect camera bag.
Over the last few years I have purchased bags from GuraGear, F-Stop, Tamrac, Tenba and more than any other from Think Tank. I met the founder of Think Tank when it was very young company and immediately fell in love with the original Airport Security Rolling Camera bag. I travel extensively and would load the Airport Security bag with a Phase One camera, lenses and backs, as well as chargers and all sorts of other gear. I have pulled that bag from the Arctic to Antarctica and to the outback of Australia and just about every place in between and it has literally been the best bag I have ever owned. It still rolls and looks as good as the day I bought it.
While this is a great bag, my needs have changed somewhat over the last year and half. Since leaving Phase One, I have adopted the Nikon D800 system as well as both the Fuji and Olympus mirrorless systems. So, my kit has become smaller. I was traveling with the Airport Security bag and found it to be only half full most of the time. Then this past spring when I was reporting on the WPPI convention in Las Vegas and while visiting the Think Tank booth, I came across their newest bag: The Airport Navigator. Immediately I thought this was the answer for my new travel needs and bought one on the spot.
Now after six months of using it I felt I should share my thoughts on this great rolling bag.
The Navigator without and with the Chobe. An easy to roll and transport system
I still travel a lot and tend not to like carrying a heavy backpack full of gear. I want something that will hold all my gear as well as be easy to place in overhead compartments – even in commuter planes. While traveling, I find a rolling duffle bag, a rolling camera bag and a shoulder-carried briefcase ideal. My briefcase is a GuraGear Chobe 19-24L. This is by far the best briefcase I have ever owned. It is expandable, has a compartment for my laptop, holds my power chargers, cords, 2 iPads and my business papers and documents. Better yet when I get to a location, I take all the loose stuff out and put in an insert which allows me to transfer my gear from the rolling bag into the Chobe and have an over the shoulder camera bag with my lenses and cameras. The insert for this bag along with the tripod, goes in my duffle bag. It’s easy to stuff loose clothing into it when packing so it won’t take up any room in my duffle.
The Club Glove Rolling Duffle II XL
And, speaking of duffle bags let me share the duffle bag I swear by. After many failed duffle bags attempts I moved to the Club Glove Rolling Duffle II XL a few years ago and I have never looked back. This is by far the most durable and versatile travel duffle bag you can find anywhere. This bag has been on hundreds of flights and doesn’t show any wear. It’s built to take a beating. It can hold my tripod, clothes and other gear. It’s not cheap – but neither is buying new luggage every year like I used to. The whole line of bags from Club Glove is ingenious and a really good investment.
Top Down View Of The Navigator
To best understand the Navigator I have made a short video to show the bag, its contents and how I use it. The set up for this video shows my Nikon D800e and D7100 with various lenses. I also can travel with my mirrorless systems with this bag and when doing so, have plenty of room left over for extras like flashes, hard drives, etc..
A Three and a Half Minute Overview Of The Think Tank Navigator Bag
This bag has a lot of bells and whistles. It is easy to place in an overhead bin on a plane and has a handle on the bottom that makes it easy to pull out of the bin. It’s built solidly with strong rubber wheels that roll easily on any surface. The zippers are heavy duty and easy to grasp and pull. If I am photographing from a car, it is easy to place on the back seat and accessing gear is simple through the top or side openings.
The typical configuration I use when traveling with Nikon gear is.
• Nikon D800 with the 70-200mm zoom attached (I sometimes interchange the 80-400mm zoom lens for the 70-200mm)
• Nikon D7100 soon to be replaced with a D810 with 18-105mm lens attached
• 24-70mm 2.8 lens
• 14-24mm 2.8 wide angle zoom
• 8mm Fisheye
• 7 spare batteries
• GPS Sensor and Cable release
• Battery charger
• 2 BlackRapid shoulder straps as well as one wrist strap
• Tool kit
• Neutral density and polarizer filters
• Pocket Passport Color Checker
• 1.4 tele-extender
• Lens cleaning clothes, blower etc.
• iPad and Western Digital 2 TB wireless hard drive
This set up can also be modified if I want to travel with the NEW Tamron 150-600mm zoom. I also have a good configuration for this case for the Mirrorless systems I use. These would be the Fuji XT-1 or Olympus OMD E-M1.
Bottom line is that with the Navigator Bag, The Glove Club duffle and the GuraGear Chobe, I can pretty much travel anywhere and have my gear as well as clothes in an easy to roll system. The Chobe slides easily over the Navigators extended handle and with that in place, I can pull both the duffle and Navigator anywhere.
A final note. Depending on where I am traveling and what type of photography I’ll be doing, I sometimes find the need for a backpack. This is especially true if there will be hiking or climbing. For those trips I don’t change much of what I have stated above but I pack in my duffle an F-Stop Bag Tilopa backpack bag and one or two inserts for this bag. I’ll report on this bag another time but the insert system and this bag are excellent for hiking. The inserts I fill with clothing and such and thus once again they don’t take up much room in my duffle. The pack itself is light and flattens out pretty well. I have taken this set-up to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions as well as the outback of Australia.
And, because I know it will come up, I have been fortunate on weight issue hassles while traveling. Only once in the last 15 years have I been stopped over my carry-on weight. The offending airline was SAS. I was a few pounds overweight and once I explained I was carrying cameras and couldn’t check it the gate person became very pleasant and accomodating and let me through without further ado. I always try to stay within the weight and size guidelines. The only time issues may arise is if you are flying a commuter airline with limited size overhead storage. I kindly reqest at the gate or when boarding that if the bags won’t fit, that they put the bags in an interior locker. And, every time I have found that a smile and a “please” work wonders. With the configuration I have written about above I have had no issues on commuter flights. The Navigator and the Chobe fit easily into the typical Canadair Commuter jet overhead. Of course I end up checking my duffle.
For those traveling to Antarctica with us this January this is most likely what I’ll be traveling with. I’m not sure if I’ll bring the Nikons or a mirrorless system—I’m wrestling with that one. I’ll share my decision in a few months as we get closer to the trip.